Album Review – To Pimp a Butterfly
It was quite the surprise this morning when I checked twitter to find that my feed was being bombarded by people excitedly saying that Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly had dropped a week before its supposed release date, March 23. Naturally I fired up the laptop, opened up Spotify, and spent the next hour and nineteen minutes listening to the album from first song to last. Based on of my first impressions, To Pimp a Butterfly may be one of the most significant and innovative albums to be released since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy debuted in 2010. I know that it’s very early to say this, but I would not be surprised if this album wins best album of 2015, which is no easy feat with heavy hitters such as Kanye West, Drake, and Kid Cudi all reportedly dropping this summer. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I wouldn’t be surprised if ten years down the road this album will be mentioned among the all time greats like Illmatic and The Chronic 2001.
Simply from a production standpoint, the album is unbelievable. K-Dot’s producers have seamlessly managed to fuse rap and jazz together in a way never before heard, and have created a sound that belongs to no genre. The abundance of funky bass guitars, smooth trumpets, and soulful drums together tend to create a very smooth blend, and are a blatant departure from more edgy tracks like “Backseat Freestyle” or “m.A.A.d city” from the 27-year-old’s previous album. It feels as if with this album, Kendrick has matured and has grown comfortable in his role as one of rap’s most influential current artists.
Kendrick Lamar’s verses, however, provide for the strongest argument for why To Pimp a Butterfly should go down in history as one of the all time greats. The way he delivers them—by altering pitches, by layering voices, by putting raw emotion into them—is just done on such another level that no other big-name rapper can even come close to it. In these regards, Kendrick is so far ahead of his peers that he seems untouchable and whether you love or hate this album, you cannot deny that he’s extremely talented on the mic. Furthermore, the topics that he raps about, ranging from race to poverty, are all discussed in such a personal and raw way that it honestly feels like you’re listening to poetry instead of rap. In fact, a poem is slowly revealed throughout the album at the end of a few songs, adding to the overall ingenuity of the album.
Right from the first song, you can tell that this is the album that Kendrick Lamar has always wanted to make, one that throws public opinion into the wind. You can also tell that he made this album primarily for himself, as is evident by the lack of big-name features. On it you won’t find many top 100 songs, nor will you find that a lot of the songs have stand-alone replay value. You will find, however, songs with unbelievably talented production coupled with extremely powerful lyrics. All in all, I guarantee that this album is unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. To Pimp a Butterfly proves that rap is alive, well, and still innovating into unmarked territories.
“u” – The antithesis of “i”, Kendrick explores the themes of depression and suicide. The second half of the song has one of the most emotional and raw verses I have heard in a long time.
“How Much a Dollar Cost” – Kendrick tells a story of his encounter with a homeless man with a twist at the end, listen closely.
“Mortal Man” – This song contains an interview with one of the most iconic figures in the history of rap. It’s a brilliant way to end the album.
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